Robot Killers? Naaaah, I’d rather enjoy the thrill of offing some leftist commie myself.
As weapons systems go, those known as LAWS, for lethal autonomous weapon systems, are just about as scary as something from “The Terminator,” “Star Wars” or “The Avengers.”
- They are systems designed “to independently select and engage targets without the need for manual human control.”
In short, they would identify targets and kill them automatically.
Now concerns are being raised by the Congressional Research Service, the nonpartisan service to Congress, which is asking what role should the United States play in United Nations conventional weapons discussions and whether the U.S. should be advocating new rules or a ban on the machines.
- “LAWS are not yet in widespread development,” the CRS noted.
- “However, as technology advances – particular artificial intelligence – a larger number of countries may consider developing and operating LAWS.
- This could hold potential implications for congressional oversight, defense investments, military concepts of operations, treaty-making, and the future of warfare.”
One issue is that there’s no universally accepted definition for the weapons yet.
- The U.S. calls them “a weapon system[s] that, once activated, can selected and engage targets without further intervention by a human operator.”
A U.S. contingent advising on international weapons standards says they should not be banned, because LAWS “could potentially provide a humanitarian benefit.” Besides, existing international humanitarian law already government their development and use.
Russia essentially agrees with the U.S. perspective, because the system would improve the accuracy of weapons, meaning there could be a “lower rate of unintentional strikes against civilians and civilian targets.”
China supports a ban not on the development and acquisition, but on use.
But its definition is different. It cites “indiscriminate, lethal systems that do not have any human oversight and cannot be terminated.”
- “Although the pursuit of LAWS is not yet widespread, some analysts have argued that Israel’s Harpy loitering munition – which the weapon’s manufacturer, IAI, describes as being fully autonomous – qualifies. Israel has exported the Harpy to Chile, China, India, South Korea, and Turkey.
- Similarly, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has noted that Chinese manufacturer Ziyan has advertised a fully autonomous system, the Blowfish A3 helicopter drone, which it has reportedly exported to the Middle East,” the report said.
The CRS said that another important question is whether or not U.S. adversaries are developing LAWS.
“How, if at all, should this affect U.S. LAWS research and development or the United States’ U.N. CCW position on LAWS?” it said.Congressional Research Service